The Death Penalty Is Not Effective

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When considering the death penalty as a crime control measure, there are many different parts of the criminal justice system that need to be taken into consideration. In “Reflections on Capital Punishment,” by Rob Warden, there are many arguments against capital punishment. Some of these arguments are:

  • That the death penalty has no demonstrable deterrent effect – But has in fact, caused some murders and, more generally, may contribute to a cycle of violence that raises murder rates.
  • That maintaining the death penalty costs significantly more than keeping convicted murderers in prison for life.
  • That the system has wrongfully condemned scores of innocent defendants whose executions have been averted only by the serendipitous discovery of evidence that was not presented at their trials.
  • That there is no reasonable doubt that innocent persons have been executed in recent decades in the United States.
  • That, notwithstanding Supreme Court declarations to the contrary, the death penalty has not been reserved for the worst offenders, as it is supposed to be, and is still being applied in a freakish manner.
  • That the distinction between capital and non-capital cases often is nothing more than an accident of time and geography.
  • That, if the death penalty is not legally cruel and unusual, neither is it in any sense kind and ordinary.

According to the article, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that the death penalty has no demonstrable deterrent effect. The contention is that the system is wrong in assuming that murderers are rational people who do a risk-benefit analysis before they commit the crime of murder. In stark contrast, the article contends that murderers are not rational people who weigh the benefits versus the cost before they commit a crime. The following is offered as an illustration to the idea that murderers do not weight risk versus reward when deciding to offend.

“On a summer day in 1983, Charles Walker, an ex-convict and alcoholic, was fishing on the bank of a creek in southern Illinois when Kevin Paule and Sharon Winker happened along. Walker had just run out of beer and had no money, so he decided to rob the couple. As he tied them to a tree, Paule blurted out, “I know you. You’re Walker.” Undeterred by the specter of the death penalty, Walker shot the couple to death and went to a tavern to drink with their money.”

This is a great example of how the death penalty does not always deter murderers. Furthermore, the article argues that not only is the death penalty not a deterrent to murderers, but that the death penalty has caused murders. In the following example provided in the article, the perpetrator, unphased by the threat of a death sentence decides to kill the victims because they wrongfully thought that the offense of kidnapping was a capital offense.

“When two plainclothes Los Angeles police officers stopped a car because its license plate was not illuminated. Unaware of the reason for the stop, the men in the car, Jimmy Lee Smith and Gregory Powell, assumed that they were being apprehended for a string of armed robberies they had committed. Thus, they disarmed and kidnapped the officers. When Smith learned the actual reason for the stop, he exclaimed, “Son of a bitch . . . I didn’t want to get into this business, but now that I am in it, I have got to go all of the way.”

As illustrated in this example, Smith and Powell mistakenly thought that the crime of kidnapping was punishable by death and decided to eliminate the witnesses. They shot one of the officers in an onion field in kern country, but the other escaped and lived. He was able to identify the killers, who were convicted and sentenced to death. In yet another case, a convicted murderer used the system to get what he wanted, a death sentence. After pleading guilty to the death of a travel agent, Ricardo Gill, asked a judge to give him the death sentence, he told the judge that he would kill again if he was not given the death sentence. The judge sentenced him to life in prison. Just four days later, Gill strangled his cellmate to death. Being put before a judge after that incident, Gill once again asked for the death penalty telling the judge that if he did not give him the death penalty, he would be giving him a license to kill. This time, the judge gave in and sentenced him to death.

There have been cases in which killers have kidnapped victims in non-death penalty jurisdictions and transported them to jurisdictions in which the death penalty exists. The contention being that no well-informed, rational person would do this also undermine the idea that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. The following example relates to a case in which a killer took the victim from a geographic area where the death penalty was not applied to a jurisdiction where the death penalty as punishment was in effect. The following is an example of a case where this happened.

“In 2006, Bruce E. Burt, a contract killer, was hired by a man accused of molesting a thirteen-year-old girl to kill the complaining witness, Donnisha Hill. Burt abducted Hill as she left school in Waterloo, Iowa, and took her across the Mississippi River into Jo Davies County, Illinois, where he killed her and disposed of her body. Contract killing is a capital offense in Illinois, but there are no capital offenses in Iowa. Burt was charged and convicted of the crime in Illinois. He did not receive a death sentence, but that is beside the point—the point being that, had Burt simply stayed on the other side of the river, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

This incident clearly shows that murderers are often not informed or rational people who weigh the benefits versus the cost. It shows that often time these perpetrators, because of their lack to reason, go as far as to put themselves in a position where they can be sentenced to death when a rational person would avoid being put in this position to be sentenced to death.

Furthermore, the article brings forth the argument that if the death penalty deterred murder it would follow that having and using it would reduce the murder rates within the jurisdictions in which the death penalty is administered. However, a comparison of the United States and Canadian murder rates tell a much more different story.

Cite this paper

The Death Penalty Is Not Effective. (2021, Jul 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-death-penalty-is-not-effective/

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